Watkins Glen Team Monte Carlo Saturday notes and quotes

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I thought it was a good lap and it was about a second slower than we practiced. I was real careful in turn five. That’s where the oil dry is. It seems like the first few...

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“I thought it was a good lap and it was about a second slower than we practiced. I was real careful in turn five. That’s where the oil dry is. It seems like the first few cars have slowed down, but I think we’ve got a good race car. I’m pretty happy with it. You had to be really careful. Once you got through the inner loop coming back to turn 10, there was a lot of oil dry and it was a little bit slick. You’ve got to be really careful. I just can’t believe we ran that slow. We’ve run good since we unloaded. A smooth lap here means everything. I had a smooth lap. I thought it was pretty fast. They asked me what happened and that’s not a good sign when they do that.”

BOBBY HAMILTON (No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“I missed a shift. That’s the first time I’ve done it all day. I picked a hell of a time to do it didn’t I. Our fastest lap today was on 32-lap tires. We’re pretty happy with the car when it comes to the race stuff. The car drove good. The track might be slower, but it was good as far as grip. I went into turn one and we’ve got a different transmission. We shift an extra gear, and I missed that extra gear. It made me catch up getting up the hill. I felt like that cost me three or four tenths.”

P.J. JONES (No. 01 BellSouth Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“It wasn’t a bad lap. We backed up our practice run. It’s a good run. We think we’re going to be a lot better in the race than we were in qualifying. We just couldn’t seem to get the car to turn quite as well, but we can do this time pretty much on new tires or old tires. I think that’s good for the race. I was just trying to get everything I could in qualifying.”

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“I thought we could run faster. It’s easy to lose a second here. The car felt good. It was free like we wanted it. I’m not sure where we lost all that time, but we’ll race good.”

RON HORNADAY (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“It’s tough to qualify for a Winston Cup race. The car was just a little tight for me going in and a little loose off. The weather changed and the track was pretty slippery, but I know this car will race good. I’m happy just to get an opportunity to drive Rick Hendrick’s Chevrolet.”

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“That was big. I got off in the kitty litter up here earlier. I didn’t really get a chance to get back on the track. I thought we could run a little bit better than that. The car was loose and it started to rain. I got a little bit careful. That’s what we got, so that’s what we’ve got to take. We’ve got a good pit crew here. They’ll give us some good stops and get us back up toward the front. The guys that came up here and tested will be the ones that shine. Those rain drops on the windshield probably hurt me mentally. I saw it raining up there it the corner, and we didn’t need to wreck twice in one morning. I probably tippy-toed through that last corner a little bit. I felt the track was OK, and I started running hard and got up on the bank and spun the tires. That hurts it a little bit. We just didn’t have a whole lot more than that right now.”

TODD BODINE (No. 66 I Love N.Y. Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

NOTE: Bodine will start 43rd in Sunday’s 43-car field.

“It’s good for us to be in, but I really don’t feel it’s a fair way to do it. We’ve used it in Busch, and I said then, and it didn’t affect me then, but I said then it wasn’t fair. The guys that support this series every week should be in the race, and the guys that are running for points should be in the race this week. It benefited me and the team, but my brother Brett runs every week and supports the series. He was fast on the track. He deserves to be in this race and he’s not. I know they do the best they can to make it a fair playing field, but I think something like this needs to be addressed a little differently. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what the answer would be, but I do know that somehow it needs to be addressed.

“Like I said, it benefited me this week. That’s great. I’m happy about it, but I know how it feels to be on the other side of that. It’s like in St. Louis. We did this in the Busch Series. Bobby Hillin, who supports the series every week, who has Kleenex as a sponsor, who has supported the series for a number of years, they went home. When that happened, I didn’t think it was fair. We had Joe Nemechek, Ted Musgrave, a lot of Cup drivers got in the field because of this type of lineup. I didn’t think it was fair then. Even though it benefited me today, I don’t think it’s fair now.

“We blew a motor in practice today, so we didn’t get to make a sticker run, but on old tires, compared to old tires, we were 11th fastest. The car was decent. Starting last we’re going to have to play the strategy game a little bit. I’ve always run good here, and I think we’ve got a good shot at the top 10. I’ve got my whole Busch crew here, plus some. That makes it a lot easier for me and the team in general to have a group that has worked together. The pit stops in the Busch car have been fantastic. The guys have been working hard. At the shop, we’re consistently in the 14-second bracket. These guys can whip them off. We just need to be consistent and we’ll be competitive. We’ve got to have everything go right because we’re starting so far back. We’re going to need a couple of cautions, a couple of chances to catch back up. I think we can do good.”

DAVE MARCIS (No. 71 Realtree Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“How can two cars that never race with us come to one race and be in the race and people that race... Look at me. I’ve been here 33 years and I’m out of here. Cal Wells, what’s he got on the line? He’s out of here. Brett Bodine is out of here. Junie Donlavey. How can that be right? Has this sport got no merit? This is bull. I told them it was bull at the beginning of the year. I told them this could happen and here it is. How or who comes up with that stuff down at NASCAR certainly doesn’t need to be there. This is totally ridiculous. You waste your breath talking to them. Why should I talk to them? It’s a waste of time. I’m 45th or 46th in points. If they took the top 43 in points I’d still be going home, but it’d at least be fair. It’d be giving the people that are here every race a chance. This ain’t fair. This doesn’t make a lick of sense. We travel all over the country racing. Maybe we could just travel all over the country and put the numbers in a hat and draw ‘em out every week to determine the lineup. That would make more sense than what they did today.”

RON FELLOWS (No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

“We’ve been back there before. The only difference is this is Winston Cup and not Craftsman Truck or Busch racing. We’re going to have to be really careful for the first couple of laps. It’ll come to a complete stop on the inner loop on the first lap. It’ll be bunched up and incredibly slow. We’ll get through the first lap and start picking them off. At the same time, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got brakes left at the end. The Goodyear tires are real consistent and real durable. I’m just concerned having to race the cars we’re going to have to race right from the start.

“This place is wide open compared to Sears Point. There are two or three places to pass. As a road circuit for me, I’ve got two or three places here where I can pass. We’re going to have to be lucky a bit with the cautions, one for track position and two for timely fuel and tires. That’s going to be Brian’s call (crew chief Brian Pattie). He’s usually damn good at it, so I’ll just worry about what’s in front of me and he’ll call the shots in the pits.

“I like it, but I’m surprised. Other than the top 35, it gives you a chance as a non-regular. You’ve got to be lucky anyway. When you’re doing a qualifying draw, eight spots gives you a chance. I’ve got to like it.”

RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos)

“Larry McReynolds has been a big part of RCR for the past three or four years. I think he came there in ‘97 and worked with the three car for a little over a year and a half. We made the switch in the middle of ‘98 and moved Larry to the 31 car. It really helped that program. It stabilized that program real good. We haven’t won a points race yet, and that’s a big thing we want to accomplish before this year is over. Any time you lose a person like that, it’s change. It’s a change we’ve kind of been preparing ourselves for the last year because Larry had talked about going and doing his own deal. The whole time we had change in our mind although Larry had a three-year contract. He came and talked to me about what he wanted to do and knowing he wasn’t going to another race team. We all wish him well. I think he’ll do really good. I think he’ll do a good job for the sport. As far as RCR, Royce McGee is who we’ve been kind of honing for that position. Royce is a very talented crew chief. Several teams were after him after the end of last season. I asked him if he would stay and whatever happened here in the next year or so, we’d put him in that position. There’s not a better person in the garage area for that position other than Royce McGee.

“I think we had the new car come in. They (31 team) had a lot of momentum going at the end of last year. We came back out this year and had a good run at Daytona. We came back and had a couple of bad weeks. We went to Atlanta and other than the broke rod, I feel he would have won the Atlanta race. He (Mike Skinner) had the best car at the end of the race. Who knows? You never know until the flag falls, but they’ve had several opportunities to be able to win Winston Cup races. The car has been competitive. It’s led a lot of laps this year. It’s been right there. But to put the whole day and the whole package together, they’ve had a tough time. We had a meeting a couple of weeks ago, even before we knew this was going to happen. We tried to put a plan in place to get some real good, solid consistency. Since that, they’ve had two top 10s. You’ve got to have consistency to win races, and that’s the thing that I want to see that team get back. If they can get in the top 10 every week, they’ll be in the top five and that’s when you win races when you’re consistently in the top five.

“There’s a lot of reasons for that (Dale Earnhardt’s successful season). I think he was hurt (last season) and you can put your finger on it and say that’s the reason Dale Earnhardt and the three car are running better this year. I think, just looking and knowing on the inside what’s going on, the 2000 Monte Carlo is a better race car. It suits his driver’s style. It puts us a little closer to the Ford and Pontiac. Dale’s health is a lot better. He had an operation this winter and I can just see him walking around, moving around, he’s a whole different person physically this year than he was last year. He’s just really happy with himself. His son is up there winning races. You’ve heard the old saying, ‘Life’s good, life’s good.’ You keep Dale Earnhardt happy and healthy and he’s hard to beat. The other thing is him having a crew chief and a race team that have been with him now about a year or a little more. That’s a big thing that we’ve built that race team. We got a little behind on some things. We let some things pass by us. Every six months, you’ll never build a consistent race team. We’ve put contracts together with these guys and Dale Earnhardt knows where his crew chief, his tire changers, his pit crew, his engine guys are going to be for the next three years. Then we’ve got something to build on. If you’re constantly changing people, you can look at the 24 or any teams through the history of the sport, the 3 car when we started making our changes we’d go through some times. I think you’ve got to have a solid race team behind you, and I think that’s one thing that’s really helped Dale Earnhardt this year. We have put together good people and we have put together some longevity there.

“Sometimes you really don’t realize it. I had a head injury back in ‘71 and went around for three or four months. My wife said I should check myself in the hospital to make that determination. I didn’t even realize I had a head injury back then and really didn’t know it for four or five months. I think it’s something the driver needs to come and say something isn’t just right. I know Jay Sauter had a head injury a couple of years ago from the Florida race at Homestead. I could see it. It really took a lot out of him and our race team. I was concerned, but he didn’t think he had a head injury. How do you tell a driver that something is wrong with you. I think when Terry Labonte came and said he was dizzy, I think that was a smart thing. When a guy does that, a head injury is the toughest deal to deal with.

“We’ve got six engineers. Bobby Hutchens heads up our whole engineering program. We’re always looking for new safety devices, new safe things that will help these drivers and help our drivers. A lot of times you’ve got to see things happen somewhere else. Nobody has all the answers. NASCAR has its concerns. We have our concerns. I think everybody should work together and do our best to fix it and make it safe.

“I think at some point you’ll see those (crash boxes) in Winston Cup cars. We did research. We’ve got a company that we have talked with that’s taking a look at that, but I think somebody has to go out there and put it on the car and see what we’ve got. Unfortunately, somebody has got to hit the wall to test it and see where it’s at. I think as long as we all keep safety in mind, do our best, we’ve been racing since the late 40s and early 50s. I came from wearing one lap belt and a roll bar behind my head to what we have today, and that’s the evolution of safety. Unfortunately, things have to happen sometimes to keep things going.”

“It’s no different than an airplane. When the Federal Aviation comes out and looks at an airplane crash, that’s what’s made all our airplanes safer. It’s made it safer for us. That’s what NASCAR does, and that’s what the teams do. “I’m kind of excited. (Kerry Earnhardt) is a good young man. I think he’s got some talent. He’s shown more this year by having good equipment, and it’s something Dale has put together. Dale really wants to give him a fair chance. “We lost a good friend Neil Bonnett last year in a crash and we looked at that several different ways. That was a practice crash. It’s just so hard to say what happens like that. I’m sure NASCAR has researched it and looked into it pretty deep. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happens. “I think at some point we need to do something to help cushion these cars if it’s nothing but something inside the cars a little more, something on the exterior walls that will give a little cushion. But if you hit at 170 or 180 mph or 160 mph and you hit just right, it’s going to be tough. It’s the impact that gets you. Your body can’t take but so much. You can cushion it a little, but your body won’t take but so much. “Right now, I think a lot of it (aero push) has a lot to do with our tire package and spring package. The aero push is something like at Indianapolis and Pocono, you’d pull up behind a car and you’d could be three or four tenths faster and that’s all you were going to go. I think some of the stuff we’re going to be looking at this coming week at Daytona in the test down there, put the drag back in these cars, I think that is going to help us a lot, but you’re still going to have to have front downforce. I think NASCAR can get involved in that more and make the racing a little better. That’s one of the things they’re looking at doing is to try to get some more drag in these cars and be able to adjust with more front downforce. That’s the key to it. You’ve got to have more front downforce. It’s awful tough to do it with rules like they have it today. “I’m sure they consulted with different people. We’ve been racing on these race tracks for 52 years or even longer than that I guess. The evolution of trying to make them better or safer is better every year. This is one of the places we still run the guardrail. At most places, we’ve got concrete walls. Here, the guardrail is still the safe thing. You saw Jimmie Johnson’s wreck. That was a good example of how the cars are built for safety and the cushion of the tire barriers. I think maybe they can build some tire barriers into the walls on down the line. “A couple of weeks ago, we reassured everyone. What we told Mike (Skinner) was yes, we want him to drive for us next year. We wanted to know if he wanted to drive for us. Once all of us knew what we wanted to do, Mike Skinner will be there for the next two years. I had a contract. I’ve got a contract for the next two years. I’m not going to make someone stay if they don’t want to stay. I think right now we’ve got Mike Skinner set. We’ve got our race team set. We’ve got Royce McGee. We’ve got some real good people in place next year. Hopefully with Larry making the type of transition we’re going to make, we won’t even hardly miss anything in transition. “We built a skid car that has already been tested at Detroit. They’re still working with it. GM is doing it. I don’t know that Ford is involved with it. You’ve got to take Ford, Chevy, Pontiac and Dodge out of the picture when you’re talking about safety. We’re talking about NASCAR and we’re talking about race drivers’ lives. What we want to do is make it as safe as possible. All manufacturers work in that direction. “Each time you add a new race track, you’ve got to add some more people. You’ve got a burnout stage on everyone, even myself and the drivers. They reach a burnout stage. The worse thing you can do is burn all your people out, even working at the shops or anywhere else. It’s very expensive on car owners. If we have to go out there and add more people, we’re going to have to give the road crew more time off, so that means we’re going to have to put more people in the shop to make up for the difference. It’s getting on up there pretty good, but I was around when we ran 52 races a year. We still haven’t reached that like we were doing in the 70s. “We’ve run ‘em (rain tires) before. We ran ‘em in Japan, and we ran ‘em up here in a test. It’s good. The thing about the road courses, you’ll see Boris Said and some of the guys who’ve raced, Ron Fellows, if we run in the rain they’re going to be hard to be hard to beat because they’ve done so much of it and they’ve had so much more experience. These guys have brought a new level to our road course racing with their style and some of the stuff they’ve learned with the brake package and the gear package. To run two road courses a year, it’s become a very expensive project and now you’ve got to make a lot of other provisions for the rain tires we might be running.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Brett Bodine , Terry Labonte , Mike Skinner , Boris Said , Joe Nemechek , Jay Sauter , Ron Fellows , Ted Musgrave , Jimmie Johnson , Kerry Earnhardt